Posted on May 18, 2021

The Far Right Is Ready to Claim a Slice of Real Power in Sweden

Rafaela Lindeberg and Ott Ummelas, Bloomberg, May 11, 2021

The populists who’ve been battling to shut down immigration into Europe may be heading for a significant breakthrough in Sweden.

The far-right Sweden Democrat party may well have the votes to help the conservative opposition secure a majority after next year’s elections, and the evidence is mounting that traditional right-wing politicians will be tempted to cut a deal to give the anti-immigrant group a say in government.

The populist party’s emergence has tracked the Nordic country’s influx of immigrants and difficulties integrating them. A worsening in gang-related violence in recent years has also pushed more voters to the right, and parties across the political spectrum have taken a tougher stand on migrants in the wake of Europe’s refugee crisis in 2015.

“The old arguments for not talking to us no longer exist,” Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Akesson said in an interview, adding the conservatives agree with him “at least on the direction.” “It’s difficult to call us ugly names and at the same time copy our politics.”

While European populists haven’t managed the major breakthrough that some people feared was at hand in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s victory in 2016, French nationalist Marine Le Pen is stronger than ever as she prepares to take on President Emmanuel Macron next year and Italy’s Matteo Salvini is still the narrow favorite to follow Mario Draghi. Sweden could prove a bellwether for a broader shift in European politics.

Ulf Kristersson, the leader of the opposition Moderate party, had his first face-to-face meeting with Akesson in 2019, shortly after the nationalist party had surged to the top of the opinion polls.

This January, he said the Sweden Democrats had become a “constructive force” in parliament and that he would cooperate with them.

In late 2017, Kristersson had repeatedly said he wouldn’t engage with the Sweden Democrats. That year, Trump triggered an angry backlash from Swedes when, at a rally in Florida, he appeared to link the rise in crime in the country to higher immigration. That link is now more widely accepted.

While Sweden has slashed immigration by half from its peak in 2016, the Sweden Democrats have signaled they would go much further to stem the flow, and aim to repatriate refugees to war-torn countries such as Syria. They also want to stop paying some benefits to anyone who isn’t a Swedish citizen, or about 9% of the population of 10.4 million.

The Moderates tweeted Tuesday that those who are denied a residency permit in Sweden have to return to their homeland, and that the party wants to deny foreign aid to countries that refuse to take back their own citizens.


{snip} The country, which grew accustomed to relatively low levels of crime, has witnessed a surge of bombings and riots in immigrant neighborhoods in the past decade.

Sweden’s police chief last August lamented an “extremely serious” escalation of violence related to gang crime, urging society to “put its foot down.” {snip}

The country reported about 10 times more deadly shootings than the U.K. in the past year, adjusted for population size.

A poll by DN/Ipsos on Monday showed policies on migration and integration remain the biggest priority for Swedish voters. The proportion who also point to law and order as one of the most important issues is greater than ever at 22%.